This blog is to keep my readers updated about my forthcoming historical romance books and to tell you a little bit about the history behind each one. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel free to comment.
Saturday, 9 August 2014
New Novel - The Viscount's Birthright
The Viscount's Birthright
WhenViscount Robert's estranged father, the Earl of Roxham, dies, he returns home full of plans to wed Lady Camilla Austin and make her his Countess.
But his plans are thwarted when he learns that his father had a young ward, Antonia, and his Will dictates that in order to inherit both the title and the estate, he must marry her.
Angry and disappointed, he consults lawyers and learns that the Will is valid. The only way he will inherit is to marry where his father has stipulated so he prepares to give up thoughts of marriage to Lady Camilla and do just that.
But he reckons without Antonia who is determined not to comply with her late guardian's wishes, declaring that she would rather find work in service than marry such a boorish and angry man.
Healey climbed out of his carriage into the first flurry ofJanuary snow and stood gazing up at Roxham
Hall, the huge country mansion in Kent which had been in his family
for generations.It was his now and not
before time.He had received word that
morning that his father was dead, and he could not stop smiling.
He had not
seen the old man for two years, not since they had quarrelled about Robert's
future and he had walked out of the house.His father wanted him to marry the daughter of a friend of his, a minor
baron of no consequence and a girl he had never before heard of.Robert refused.He had set his heart on Lady Camilla Austin,
daughter of the Earl of Stanton, and he intended to wed her at the earliest
When the old
man had talked of this marriage, the girl was but thirteen years old, little
more than a child, and the idea disgusted him; he was a grown man, for heaven's
sake, twenty three years old and with the needs of a grown man.He had no desire to wed a little girl, likely
not yet fully developed, and besides he wanted Camilla.He had no idea why his father had chosen this
girl to be his son's bride, his future countess, but he thought it likely he
owed something to the girl's father.He
would never hesitate to use another to pay his own debts.
commitment had been made to Lady Camilla, since he was waiting for the old man
to die so he could inherit; then he would be in a position to commit to her,
Now he stood
among the faster falling snowflakes and looked forward to his future.
The last time
he had seen his father, Robert had not expected him to last another two
years.He was well over seventy,
Robert's mother having been his third wife and the only one to give him a
living child.Robert sometimes wondered
what had become of those previous wives. As a child he had witnessed his father's abuse
of his own mother, so he could not help but wonder, although he had no
The Earl was a
violent man, a brutal man who treated his wife no better than a servant and
Robert would shed no tears for his passing.
All he felt
that morning as he stood in the snow, was relief that at last he could get on
with his life, he could look forward to a future with Lady Camilla, he could
make her Countess of Roxham, bring her to live in this fine old house and have the
funds to give her the life she deserved, the life her position warranted.Her father and mother would be happy for the
union to take place; it was what they had all been waiting for and the old man
had at least done him the favour of dying just in time.
getting tired of waiting, as was her father and he had started to make
tentative enquiries with a view to marrying her elsewhere.There were a few suitable men, sons of earls
and even a Duke who was interested in a match with her for his eldest son.Robert could not bear to think of losing her
but neither could he bear to speak to his father about a firm commitment.He had no desire to have the old man bring up
the subject of the little girl again.Best leave things as they were; the Earl could not live forever.
He stared a
little longer at the massive house.It
had stood since the early fourteenth century, had suffered wars and plagues;
one of the earls had lost his entire household, including his wife and
daughter, in the black death, the pestilence which decimated the country in the
mid fourteenth century.According to
family legend, when the disease had struck the village, the Earl had taken all
the people who were still healthy into his house, and that is how they had all
fallen ill and died.
scoffed.There would have been no danger
of that if his father had been their lord then.He would not have shared his house with a mere peasant, even if they all
perished horribly as a consequence.
Lord?"The voice of his father's personal
servant came from the doorway, where the man stood shivering in the cold."You are getting very wet."
suddenly realised his clothes were soaked, and the settling snow was sinking
into his shoes and gathering on his shoulders.He had been so entranced, so pleased with himself, he had not even
noticed.Now he picked up his leather
travelling bag and strode toward the house.
a fire in the small sitting room," the servant told him."I will fetch a hot drink."
you, Frederick," he replied.He
made his way into the great hall, a remnant of the house's feudal origins, Frederick following,
ready to take his cloak and his hat which he now passed to him, shaking off the
snow as he did so and leaving a puddle on the stone floor. "Have you
arranged the funeral already, or were you waiting for me?"
waited My Lord.I was uncertain what
sort of service you had in mind, and the Will is yet to be read.We have no way of knowing what provision he
has made for masses or how to go about finding a priest to say them."
back at him thoughtfully.Of course the
old man would have left money for many, many masses, perhaps for all
eternity.There was no chance of him
escaping purgatory without them.Robert
only wished he could overturn the provision and condemn him to extra time
there, if such a place had any truth in reality, which Robert seriously
As a catholic,
albeit in secret and certainly not an openly practising one, the old Earl would
believe in purgatory certainly, even if his son had given the matter little
thought.He was happy to practice
whatever religion the state demanded as long as it had no personal affect on
him, and at this precise moment that was protestantism, declared law by the
young King Edward VI and his uncles.Robert made sure to swear loyalty to the King for fear of being thought
a papist like his father.Edward was
fiercely against popery and it was always wise to let the King know of one's
boxes brought in, will you, Frederick,"
he said."And have my things taken
to my own bedchamber; I have no wish to take my father's.We will lock that up for the time
uncomfortable, then his glance moved to the sitting room door where stood a
young woman, with tiny features and long, dark auburn hair falling to her
waist.She curtsied quickly and her eyes
met Robert's as she straightened up.He
scrutinised her for a few seconds, his glance sweeping her from head to foot,
then he turned his gaze back to Frederick.
me, My Lord.This is Mistress Antonia
Jarvis, your late father's ward."
narrowed his eyes at the girl who stared back at him, insolently he
thought.He had no idea his father had a
ward; what sort of father would leave his child to his care?Then he recalled the name: Antonia.Yes, that was the name of the little girl his
father had wanted him to marry.So he
supposed he had inherited her as well.He would act as her guardian if he had to, as long as it did not
interfere with his own plans.
Jarvis has been using your bedchamber since she came to live here," said Frederick."It was your father's order."
back to him with a scowl.There were
thirty bedchambers in this house, but he had ordered Robert's to be used to
house this little girl.His mouth turned
down in a grimace; yes, it would be like his father to banish his son
permanently by giving to a stranger the chamber he had occupied since
childhood.He likely hoped Robert would
get to hear of it.He sighed
put her somewhere else," he said, as though the girl were not standing
just a few feet away."I want my
own chamber back."
He turned and
swept passed Antonia on his way to the sitting room and the warm fire, almost
knocking her off her feet as he went.She brushed her skirts deliberately as he passed her, drawing attention
to the moist patch he had left on her clothing.Once inside the sitting room he removed his damp shoes and tossed them
onto the floor, then sat leaning toward the flames, holding out his cold hands.
tell me where I am to sleep, Frederick,"
he heard a female voice, raised just loud enough for Robert to hear."Anywhere will do, even the barn, just
as long as I am not in His Lordship's way."
He heard a
note of laughter behind her words, as though she found the situation amusing
and perhaps she did.He could find
nothing to be amused about.He had not
expected to inherit this young girl along with the title and estate and he
could only hope Camilla would be happy to have her in the house; if not she
would have to go to a convent in France or serve in some noble
household.Indeed, that might be the
best thing in any event.
Frederick came back into
the room and handed him a pewter goblet of mulled wine.
Earl’s lawyer is due this afternoon," he informed him."There are one or two things he wants to
discuss with you and with Mistress Jarvis."
an eyebrow, then waved the servant away.He supposed the old man had left some provision for her, a pension or
dowry.Perhaps he had arranged a
marriage for her.Robert hoped so; it
would save him the trouble of doing it.
He sank back
in the upholstered chair and sipped his wine, the liquid warming his insides,
and he closed his eyes as he thought about his plans for the future.He had waited a long time to wed Lady
Camilla, almost three years in fact, ever since they met at a small function
given by her father.He was all set to
arrange things, to ask her father for her hand and commit to a betrothal, when
his father brought up this bizarre idea of his marrying a thirteen year old
child from an inconsequential family.
quarrelled bitterly that day and Robert left, found shelter at the lodge house
to Lord Stanton's estate.It was very
cramped and not at all what he was accustomed to, but there was nowhere else.
He spent most
of his time at the main house where Lord Stanton made him welcome, knowing he
was a good match for his daughter and wanting to be sure he did not change his
mind.As if he would do that!
He could not
wait to marry Camilla, or rather he could not wait to bed her.He longed to take those beautiful full
breasts into his hands, into his mouth, longed to caress that round, sensuous
body and discover what was hidden beneath her fine gowns.He smiled at the idea and felt himself stir,
then he heard a soft footfall and blushed when he opened his eyes and looked up
to see Antonia gazing down at him.He
quickly pushed himself up in the chair.
lawyer is here," she said.
The grin she
fought to suppress convinced him she had seen more than he would have liked.
beyond her to see the man brushing snow from his cloak as he followed her into
leave you to talk in private," she said, turning to go.
Mistress," the lawyer stopped her."This concerns you as well."
back and went to sit at the oak table, while the lawyer did the same.Robert stayed where he was beside the fire;
he was enjoying the warmth too much to move.He watched the lawyer spread the document out on the table, and frown
Will is rather irregular in my experience," he said, "but I have
searched for a precedent to see if it can be contested.I regret I have found nothing."
Robert sat up sharply."Why would I
want it contested?"
Lord, it leaves everything to you, including the title, estate and a great deal
of money, with the exception of an amount for Mistress Jarvis's dowry and money
for masses for the dead, if we can find a priest to perform such a thing, as
well as an elaborate funeral and tomb.But there are conditions."
and flushed, began fidgeting in his chair.Robert was growing impatient.
he said."Get on with it."
Lord, remember I am but relaying His Lordship's wishes.Your own bequest and that of Mistress Jarvis
is only valid if you marry."
and sighed impatiently, drank more of his wine.What was the fellow talking about?
I will marry," he said."So
will Mistress Jarvis, I imagine, once I have found someone suitable for
at him with a stubborn pout to her lips which he found impertinent.
misunderstand, My Lord," the lawyer was saying."Your father left these things to you
only if you marry each other."
Please note this story is set in the County of Kent, where the ancient feudal law of primogeniture never applied. This law entitled the first born son to inherit both title and estate, but for some reason Kent was excluded.
This novel is set at the end of the reign of King Edward VI, Henry VIII's only surviving son and a devoted protestant. He was only fifteen when he died and the throne passed to his elder sister Mary, a fanatical catholic who used brutal means to bring England back to the Church of Rome.